John R Cowan

Composer Information: John R Cowan

Born in 1940, I first started playing the violin at the age of 8 under the auspices of Chris and Lilian Faithful of Dumfries, wonderful, caring teachers and excellent classical violinists in their own right. I would have to say progress went well and by my early teens I would happily have pursued music as a career but was thwarted in that direction by my parents, or to be more exact my mother, who didn’t think there was a viable living down that route.

This decision sparked off a distinct decline in my interest in academia and I was determined to get out of the system at the earliest opportunity and start earning a living. This much I could do without support or approval and so, at the tender age of 15 I abandoned school and joined the Police Service as a cadet and later as a constable in Dumfries and Galloway. During this time the violin, or fiddle as it had become by now, was kept aired but to a much lesser degree, there being nothing to aim for. The years passed, much too quickly, and in 1976 I was promoted to Sergeant and posted to Langholm, a town where music was enthusiastically embraced by a surprisingly large percentage of the population. I became involved with the Border Strathspey and Reel Society which reignited my enthusiasm for fiddle playing, an enthusiasm which I still have.

In 1984 I was again promoted and transferred to Kirkcudbright in Galloway as Inspector. This was 60 miles from Langholm which made attending meetings there hardly viable, so sadly I said farewell to the Strathspey and Reel Society. I resolved this gap by being involved in the instigation of another society ‘The Gallovidians’, a like society but fewer in number and was Secretary and Librarian for that organisation for the first 10 years of its existence. During this time I was instrumental in taking the group to Maryland, U.S.A., on two occasions. I continue to produce the music for the Gallovidians.

1989 saw my retiral from the Police Service which freed me up to become more involved in the music scene in Galloway in addition to the Gallovidians, firstly in session music in local hostelries and as far afield as Donegal, Clare and Holland, in addition to various folk festivals, which continues, and latterly by involvement in a folk group ‘Galloway Folk’. You will find them at

The writing of music has gone on now for many years but took a steep upward turn when, shortly after retiring I got a computer and the inevitable music programme which allowed me to present the music in an acceptable form. Although sadly lacking in the theoretical knowledge of music I don’t feel that this has been a great hurdle to overcome and has resulted in intuitive writing not inhibited by the need to consciously conform to specific principles of music composition. The result is, as you will see, music mostly in traditional mode which appears well accepted by those who encounter it.

View list of works

Back to list of composers


  • MasterCard Credit
  • JCB
  • Maestro
  • Visa Credit
  • Visa Electron
  • Powered by WorldPay